Outline agreement on the Civil Service Compensation Scheme comes after 18 months of negotiations by five unions, first with the previous Labour government and then with the coalition, on reforms to the scheme.
The new arrangements change the terms of the CSCS to bring them into line with the rest of the public sector, generating more than £1 billion of savings and giving special protection to the low paid.
Dai Hudd, Prospect deputy general secretary said: “This deal became necessary when the government made it clear they would move primary legislation to change the existing terms without our agreement. It represents the best that could be achieved in negotiations and puts the scheme on a par with the rest of the public sector. It meets the needs of our members to have decent redundancy terms and is affordable to government and the taxpayer, important in the current economic climate.”
The five unions recommending the deal to members are Prospect, the professionals’ union; FDA (senior staff); POA (prison staff); GMB and Unite (industrial staff). They represent 180,000 employees in departments, agencies and other public bodies. PCS, the largest civil service union, was invited to join the negotiations but is not a party to the agreement.
The terms of the agreement will be included in the Superannuation Bill now before parliament in time for its third reading in the Commons on 13 October. The Bill will be amended so as to drop the government’s plan to cap the maximum compensation paid to civil servants at 12 months’ pay for compulsory redundancy and 15 months for voluntary redundancy.
The reforms contained in the new agreement would:
- provide a ceiling of 21 months’ pay plus 3 months’ notice for voluntary redundancy. For compulsory redundancy the cap would stay at 12 months
- treat all those earning less than £23,000 as if they earned £23,000 for the purpose of calculating redundancy payments
- protect those aged over 50 by giving them access to an unreduced pension
- taper protection for reserved rights.
In the House of Commons on 9 September, during the debate on the second reading of the Superannuation Bill, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude, admitted that the government was using the Bill as a “blunt instrument” to persuade the unions to accept changes to the scheme.
He also conceded that had the judicial challenge brought by the PCS union not succeeded, there would have been “a pressing case” to allow the terms of the February agreement to remain in force.
The five unions will now ballot members on the new agreement by the end of October, with a recommendation that these are the best terms that can be achieved by negotiation.